Animal Assisted Therapy

The Psych Professionals is proud to be providers of animal assisted therapy (AAT), with professionally trained and assessed therapy dogs and their highly qualified and specially trained owners.

AAT is a modality of therapy where an animal assists in the therapeutic process to help a client, (or group of clients), to reach a their therapy goals. 

These are called Animal Assisted Interventions (AAI), which can be used to assist in the treatment of many mental health issues, including but not limited to:

  • Anxiety (Generalised, Separation & Social Anxiety)
  • Depression
  • Behaviour Disorders (ODD & ADHD)
  • Anger Management
  • Self-Esteem
  • Assertiveness Training
  • Social Skills & Empathy Training
  • Emotion Regulation

How Does Animal Assisted Therapy Work?

Animal assisted therapy is used in conjunction with other more traditional modalities of therapy, and as such it works in a very similar fashion.

The client will engage with the therapist to be supported through and learn strategies to help manage their current situation.

Session Outline

Depending on the individual situation, the animal assisted therapeutic process generally goes for between 6 to 12 sessions.

Sessions 1-3

These sessions are generally based around engagement, building relationship and assessment of the clients individual situation. During these sessions, the client will build a relationship with both the psychologist, and the therapy dog. This relationship is crucial for the ongoing success of the intervention.

Sessions 4-9

These sessions are generally based around interventions. These can be activities to help the client learn new strategies for managing their thoughts, feelings & behaviour. The therapy dog plays a big role in assisting clients to learn about topics such as behaviour management, mood, anxiety, learning, social skills, self esteem & empathy.

Sessions 10-12

These sessions are generally reserved for client feedback and review, and to address any ongoing or new issues. It is always very important that the client has ample opportunity to close their relationship with the psychologist and therapy dog.

What are the Benefits of Animal Assisted Therapy?

There are many benefits to using animals in therapy, which have becoming more widely researched. The connection that humans experience with animals is termed the human-animal bond (HAB) – this has links way back to our ancestors and their reliance and link with nature, including animals.

This HAB is believed to be responsible for the physical, emotional and mental benefits of being in the presence of a friendly animal. This bond can be used in therapy to help achieve far greater outcomes, often much faster than without the presence of the animal

Reduced Anxiety

The presence of a friendly animal reduces the physiological symptoms of anxiety (increased heart rate, breathing, high blood pressure etc.), allowing the client to feel more comfortable in therapy.

Non-threatening Environment

The client feels more relaxed and trusting of the therapist, as they see them in less of a clinical role. They are able to observe the therapists relationship with their dog. These things mean that the client is more likely to find therapy an enjoyable experience, and are more likely to attend future sessions.


Children and adolescents are often who inclined to believe that they are being taken to therapy because there is ‘something wrong with them’. Being greeted by the therapy dog and including them in therapy allows the young person to feel more supported. Our young clients actually look forward to attending their sessions!


The therapy dog is often used to model different things, one of the most beneficial things is how the therapists manages the dogs behaviour.

AAT Group Programs

We are very excited to be able to offer animal assisted therapy group programs for children and adolescents! Groups are a fantastic way to introduce kids to therapy, as they are with other children their own age. Also, this can be a cost-effective way to keep kids engaged in therapy between individual sessions.

We are always taking expressions of interest for the following AAT group programs, however for the most up-to-date information on what groups are currently taking enrolments, please give our practice a call or send an online contact request.

Frequently Asked Questions

What type of client is suitable for AAT?

Anyone can engage in AAT, as long as they do not have a serious phobia or allergies to dogs. Therapy dogs are fantastic for treating dog phobias, however this needs to be your treatment goal and can take some time. If the client has a history of abuse towards animals, they may not be suitable for animal assisted therapy.

Are the dogs safe?

All of our therapy dogs have had intensive training and been assessed by industry professionals to be behaviourally safe. However there is always a small risk of zoonoses (diseases transferrable between human and animal), to control for this we provide hand sanitiser at every session. Further, the dogs are kept to a very high standard of grooming and general health (vaccinations, worming etc.). Please contact us if you would like more information on zoonoses.

Who owns the dogs?

Our therapy dogs are owned by, live with and were trained by their human counterparts, whom are also Psychologist in our practices. All the dogs have been owned since they were puppies, they are very loved and lead enriched lives.

How much does it cost?

The costs for AAT can differ between practices, practitioners and time of day, however are the same as our normal session rates. Sessions can be paid for privately, or you may be eligible for one of a number of referrals where you may be able access rebates. You may also be able to access a rebate under your private health insurance.

We also run group programs from time to time which can be a more affordable option.  These sessions can be paid for privately or rebates may be available.

How do I get a referral?

See your GP for advise on which referral you may be eligible for.